In June of last year Colombia’s national football team had descended to their lowest ever FIFA World Ranking of 54. Times were tough for Los Cafeteros who have not qualified for a World Cup since France 1998.
A country that has a historical plague from the drug cartels’ of the country suffered among the nationwide corruption following the death of drug-lord Pablo Escobar. This corruption culminated in the infamous murder of Andres Escobar, as a result of lost bets due to his own goal against arch-rivals the USA that saw a talented Colombia side tumble out of the 1994 World Cup at the group stage.
To this day the despondent and helpless look on the defenders face while kneeling on the Rose Bowl turf is symbolic of the horrific corruption that engrained Colombia during the mid-90s.
Colombia however have produced some of the most mercurial and elusive figures of world football in the past two decades. Record cap-holder Carlos Valderrama with his bouncing blonde afro and superbly flamboyant technical prowess was the icon of the Colombia national football team and who can forget the renegade goalkeeper Rene Higuita and his scorpion kick that left Jamie Redknapp and co gobsmacked. Newcastle United fans will of course find it impossible to forget the rebellious and continually AWOL forward Faustino Asprilla, as difficult as he was talented, he now holds a cult status among many English football fans.
After the disappointment of 2011 change was needed in 2012 and in January that year they made that change with Argentine legend Jose Pekerman being given the role of national coach. Since then they have played seven games, winning six of them with the one defeat against Ecuador in June.
The September round of qualifying saw them take World Cup semi-finalists Uruguay apart in a 4-0 win and Chile succumbed in Santiago to a 3-1 reverse. Wins against Paraguay and a friendly triumph over Cameroon in which many star players were rested in October was further proof of their progress.
There are some star players as well with the likes of Porto’s James Rodriguez and Jackson Martinez, Club Brugges goal machine Carlos Bacca, Serie A trio Fredy Guarin, Darlon Pabon and Juan Cuadrado with strong defence in Nice goalkeeper David Ospina, Udinese defender Pablo Armero and AC Milan’s Cristian Zapata.
Of course their star player is Radamel Falcao, who like Lionel Messi for Argentina is finally starting to produce his club form for his nation including a brilliant double against Paraguay.
They currently sit in third place in qualification with Chile, Uruguay and Venezuela in hot pursuit, but given their current run of form it seems Colombia are on the verge of breaking their duck on the world stage, by qualifying for Brazil 2014. Given the passion of their fans they will be a much welcomed force back to the national stage.
Here is Falcao’s double against Paraguay…
Do you think Colombia will qualify for World Cup 2014?
image: © chilangoco